Hidden History Of Coined Words


How do words get coined? That question is explored in Ralph Keyes’s latest book, The Hidden History of Coined Words. Based on meticulous research, Keyes has determined that successful neologisms are as likely to be created by chance as by intention. A remarkable number of new words were coined whimsically, he’s discovered, to taunt, even to prank. Knickers resulted from a hoax, big bang from an insult. Wisecracking produced software, crowdsource, and blog. More than a few neologisms weren’t even coined intentionally: they resulted from happy accidents such as typos, mistranslations, and misheard words like bigly and buttonhole, or from an unintended coinage such as Isaac Asimov’s robotics. Many of the word coiners Keyes writes about come from unlikely quarters. Neologizers (a Thomas Jefferson coinage) include not just learned scholars and literary lions but cartoonists, columnists, children’s authors, and children as well. Wimp, Keyes tells us, originated with an early 20th century book series on The Wymps, goop from a series about The Goops, and nerd from a book by Dr. Seuss. Competing claims to have coined terms like gonzo, mojo, and booty call are assessed, as is epic battles fought between new word partisans, and those who think we have enough words already. A concluding chapter offers pointers on how to coin a word of one’s own. Written in a reader-friendly manner, The Hidden History of Coined Words will appeal not just to word lovers but history buffs, trivia contesters, and anyone at all who is interested in a well-informed good read-


SKU (ISBN): 9780190466763
Binding: Cloth Text
Published: 2021
Publisher: Oxford University Press


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